Coffee in Paradise

Current Location: Twisp, Washington

Random notes on Montana, don’t ride too close to the road or you’re bound to get run over and don’t ride too close to the shoulder as you are bound to startle a snake that will then start to rattle.  I didn’t go back to investigate the markings on said snake as my legs got a boost of adrenaline.  Riding on I90 was not fun but it was one of the few ways to get back on track and recommended by Adventure Cycling, the mountain passes I got to ride through after that were amazing, it baffles me that we dare to put roads through some of these mountains.  Stop in Missoula if you cycle through to get some free ice cream and soda from the Adventure Cycling office, you may even get your portrait taken like my cousins did. Thanks to Kay and Bryan in Missoula for putting me up for the night and the beer.

I slid through the pan handle of Idaho and camped the night at a state campground.  The campers next to me had a little 4 year old girl who upon seeing me set up my tent invited me to share the fire with them.  She was super charming and we made smores and shared stories late into the night.  That was about all I saw of Idaho, I was mostly glad to be out of Montana where the speed limits are a little out of control.

I’ve now crossed the Sherman, Wauconda , and Loup Loup passes leaving me only the Washington pass tomorrow, it’s supposed to be a brutal uphill since it’s the only one mentioned in my maps.  Other than that I’ve now officially gone through a hail storm, on crossing the Wauconda pass last night it started a crazy lightning storm with heaps of rain coming down.  I decided to try and lose as much altitude as possible with the remaining light I had left, on the way down it starts hailing like I’ve never seen before, the whole road was white with pea sized hail.  As I learned from Gina, hail is rain the bounces and tends to hurt as I’m doing 30 mph down a 5% hill.  After a while it stopped only to have the road washed out as I turned a corner, I didn’t have enough time to stop and almost ate it fishtailing across the road but managed to hang on.  I finally went about 10 miles in the pouring rain before it started to let up and I found a place in a ranch yard.

Just a few days left until Seattle.  Wheee.

Crossing the Divide

Current Location: Missoula, Montana

I’ve crossed the divide, the continental that is.  The elevation gain on it is just over 2300 ft in a shade over 6 miles.  To put this into perspective that is like riding from Kahului to my house in Kula except int Maui you get 14 miles to do the same gain meaning the slope of the MacDonald pass is something fierce at times.  Once I got to the top I considered camping at 6000 ft or barrel to the bottom as the sun was setting anyway.  It’s hard to pass up a long downhill like that after spending a few hours churning up the hill so I figured it was worth it to go down for a while.  I think I would have made my Uncle Bill proud by passing a Winnabego on the way down.

Getting out of South Dakota wasn’t easy, the road was busy and the winds didn’t want to let go but I was definitely glad to have the end of the plains.  As many a tourer has said they prefer mountains over wind, at least mountains end while the wind will grind away at you all day.  I know I’ve said I wouldn’t complain about the wind after Denmark but the distances I’m having to grind out against the wind here is extreme.

My impression of Sturgis is that the place is a little to commercialized for it to be as roughneck as it’s made out to be.  I do hear that 600,000 bikes attended this years bike rally taking over the town and the outlying area.  South Dakotans tell me that it’s really just lawyers and bankers who get to play dress up for a week and pretend to be bikers.  Not exactly what I would consider hard core.  Thanks goes to my aunt Carol for putting me up for the night.

Making it into Billings was a welcome sight, mostly because I would have a bed to sleep in and knowledgeable advice on bike maintenance.  My uncle Bill managed to have the bike stripped down within hours of me making it there and a cleaner bike hours later I tested going up the bluff they live below.  We squeezed in a ride the next day and I managed to keep up with my uncle who is a pretty serious rider and all around bike guy.  Good food and a comfortable bed is always welcome.

By my estimate I have 2 days to Washington and then it’s all downhill from there, I wish this were true.  But in the grand scheme of things one state doesn’t seem to compare to much anymore.

Vale la Pena

Current Location: Sturgis, South Dakota

Getting to visit the Minnesota state fair for a second time was just as much fun as the first time around.  I’ll try and recount what was consumed over and 8 hr period.  We started with a chocolate malt with raspberries, and then moved over to the corn booth and each had a corn.  After that I had read about the grilled chocolate banana and marshmallow sandwiches (probably the most unhealthy thing I tried this year.)  After that I had a polish sausage wrapped in a dough and baked (called a Twisted Sister) and had a frozen mocha for dessert.  I split a order of fries with Aunt Patty and had some Tom Thumb mini doughnuts.  To top it all off I finished the night with some roasted cinnamon almonds.  I’m probably forgetting some things in this list but that is only a small sample of whats to be had at the fair, good times and good food.

Minnesota, like Michigan, for me is good for the soul and the stomach.  Good family there who roll out welcome mats when I get there is more than I can ask for.  I did try to get up on water skiis again this time around but the results were the same as last time, except I pulled a muscle in my leg and decided that was enough tries this time around.  I hope that third time is a charm, it just means I’ll have to make it back to the lake again someday to try again.  Thanks to all the Minnesota gang for the hospitality and what seems to be an endless supply of ice cream.

I broke down one night and paid for camping on my first night in South Dakota at a small state park next to Watertown.  As it turns out I’ve found my new favorite greeting.  “Want some steak?”  After I had setup camp for the night and just as I was about to break out the bagels and peanut butter for dinner a little kid about 7 years old walks up to me from across the road and asked me the question.  I looked him dead in the eyes and replied, “yes.”  He said he would fix me a plate but instead I followed him across the way to where his family was set up, there was about 10 of them camped at a few sites and had just finished dinner with a couple spare steaks on the grill along with potatoes and salads and desserts.  I gave my story of where I started and where I was going and got the usual responses.  I’m glad I stopped there, it was worth the camping fee that night.

The rest of South Dakota was plain, and just rolling hills most of the time.  I rode through another thunder storm and watched lightning crash a few miles off in the distance.  Super cool.  The wind on the other hand was reminiscent of Denmark, the only major difference here is I had another 350 miles to go against the wind.  That thought almost crushed me.  Fortunately the day after I got passed Pierre the wind turned in my direction and I churned out a 130 miles to try and gain back some of that lost mileage.  The road less traveled is what I chose to do in South Dakota meeting only a few cars every couple of miles after passing Pierre.  It also means there is not much to see either, plains on either side of me occasionally punctuated with some cows.  Towns are probably populated by no more than 20 people and I’m constantly worried about my water supply.  I’m kinda glad that I almost have this state behind me, only one more long state to go and it’s a doozy.